Bias has existed in recruitment for as long as recruitment has existed. Thankfully over recent decades, this has reduced dramatically and the introduction of protective legislation ensures the most obvious of bias has seen its days.
But how many of us can honestly admit to being completely unbiased? Not many professionals would openly admit to being sexist or racist but what about that annoying man with the red hair you interviewed recently; would the next red head remind you of that poor experience? Would they get the same treatment as the brunette that arrived next? You might think they would but subconsciously your brain may think otherwise.
So what is unconscious bias? According to clever folk (source ECU: Unconscious Bias in Higher Education) “It happens automatically and is triggered by our brain making quick judgements and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experience.
The first step to removing, or at least reducing bias in the recruitment process is acknowledging the problem exists in the first place and then putting plans into action to address it. They don’t have to be complex plans (although they often may be) but identifying the problem isn’t enough – action is needed – and hiding behind processes, cost, lack of time and *enter any other excuse here* just isn’t good enough in the international battle for talent.
The sad thing with bias is that diversity is proven to provide better-performing, well-rounded teams that can succeed in many more complex situations than a team of mirror images. However our brains are somewhat narcissistic by nature and when an applicant is just like ourselves, well heck we really like them!
Same companies (although only 3% of the fortune 500, according Fortune.com) have taken the bold move to share their diversity figures in an attempt to not only show the world how progressive they are but also to prevent themselves from backtracking to the dark ages where only white men of a certain age and suit type got the job (high five to Google, Facebook and Apple for leading the way in this area!). Would your company be this bold right now?
More transactionally within recruitment processes, small steps have been introduced in an attempt to reduce bias; removal of names, ages, even schools from resumes can prevent assumptions around these areas but what stops your interviewer from asking those cringe-and-cover-your-eyes questions during initial interviews? One of the key benefits of video interviewing is the consistency – each applicant is asked the same questions, given the same amount of time to answer and the same analysis as the next; you can’t sneakily cross any out with a subtle ‘oh dont worry; that question isn’t relevant to this role’, knowing fine well it is.
“That would never happen in my recruitment team!” I hear you cry. Great – get publishing your diversity stats and we’ll keep talking.
Does anyone struggle with remembering the details of each initial interview, even if you’re an expert in shorthand note taking? Sorry, did I already ask if you struggle to remember interview details?? We’re only human, it’s ok if we do. But video interviewing also allows you to play, analyse, repeat as many times as you like, and with as many key stakeholders as that role needs. Bias can sneak into memories and that red headed guy that you don’t even consciously remember can tell you that the next red head answered one way when actually they responded completely differently – how valuable would this be in a feedback session; to know you have your facts absolutely right..?
There are also aspects of bias that may not have even crossed your mind before. By asking every candidate to be available on the phone or at your office during a certain time of day, you could be accidentally deterring applicants relocating, of a lower income or maybe those who are studying part-time. We’ve all had times when the boss just can’t let you take an early finish, or maybe when that flight just costs too much this month. But what if that person is the perfect fit for the role? Video interviewing puts that control back into the hands of the interviewee and you get a more relaxed, diverse talent pool of people who can conduct their interview at Sunday 2am if they need to!
Ultimately, bias limits the capability and success of your company. Video interviewing can help (and we can help with video interviewing), but bravery is also absolutely essential.